Ford Sterling in “Cohen Saves the Flag”
Today is the anniversary of the release of the Keystone one-reel comedy Cohen Saves the Flag, directed and produced by Mack Sennett. Is it anti-Semitic? Star Ford Sterling, a non-Jew, specialized in the stereotypical Hebrew character, often called Cohen in the Keystones. This film ridicules the very notion of a Lieutenant Goldberg and a Sgt. Cohen. Yet they perform acts of heroism in the Confederate army. Or is it a parody?
Pathe Lehrman plays Goldberg. Mabel Normand of course is the love interest. As he often did, Sennett is piggybacking his film on someone else’s big budget epic, in this case Thomas Ince’s The Battle of Gettysburg. No way in blazes Sennett hired hundreds of uniformed extras and demolition experts for a one reel comedy. This print is a re-release, retitled Mabel Saves her Darlings.
For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
For more on the history of show business consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.